City Controller defends secretive $5.6 million land deal

Houston's elected financial watchdog was at City Hall today defending his secretive land deal involving millions of tax dollars.

"Did you ever attempt to communicate to city council or the administration that you had an ownership interest in that property?" asked Council Member Mike Laster.

"No," answered Controller Chris Brown.

Brown says there was nothing wrong with his silence, nothing wrong with accepting $5.6 million dollars for land he owned from a developer who had borrowed much of that money from the City whose finance's Brown regularly audits.

"I did the public disclosure as was required by law and I got a legal opinion that clearly showed no conflict of interest. I feel very confident that I've done everything that I needed to do in this transaction," said Brown.

Brown claims he was completely unaware at the outset of the deal that the buyer of his land, developer Kilday LLC, was borrowing money from the City's Housing and Community Development to build 120 units for low income, elderly Houstonians.

Outside City Hall, the Controller's critics weren't buying his story.

"There's nothing about this deal that is right, looks right and it certainly doesn't smell right. If the deal was okay, if it was legal and it was ethical why didn't he disclose it to the members of City Council and the public before the deal was voted on? We know what's right and wrong," said Jew Don Boney, a former Council Member and spokesman for Concerned Citizens of Houston.

Meantime, Tom McCasland, the City's Director of Housing and Community Development admitted that on the requirement of appropriate disclosure involving an elected official, he dropped the ball and didn't inform Mayor Sylvester Turner.

"I indicated that it was a failure on my part to ask the right questions. When I moved it over to (City Legal) I did not know the full details. We moved it over to vet for a conflict of interest, which they did. I should have taken that further, I recognize that. But this is not the way I do business. I am not the property owner here," said McCasland in an exclusive interview with Fox 26 News.

Council Member Mike Knox has filed a "complaint of employee misconduct" against Controller Brown with the City's Office of Inspector General.